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That is the same as the current requirement in section 352 of the Companies Act 1985. The Bill makes it clear elsewhere that an address for service, such as a PO box, is all that is required. We are talking about something for the purpose of communicating with the member and a way in which the member can be easily contacted. That is the objective of the exercise. In any event, a large and increasing proportion of individual investors in quoted companies and publicly traded companies hold their shareholdings through nominees so their names and addresses do not appear in the register at all.

Paul Farrelly: Does my hon. and learned Friend share my puzzlement that, at this stage, on the Floor of the House—we are not in Committee, using probing amendments to score debating points—the Conservative Opposition are advancing an amendment that would drive a coach and horses through any effective regulation or shareholder protection, having gone through all the processes of trying to refine and make acceptable their new clauses 16 and 17, which would be made redundant by this sort of approach?

The Solicitor-General: I agree with my hon. Friend, and I would not seek to defend the patent inadequacies of the Conservatives’ new clauses.

Mr. Djanogly: May I help the Solicitor-General in his answer to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly)? Frankly, these provisions came in at a late stage in the other place, and we have been fighting to make up for lost time.

The Solicitor-General: After much complaining by the Conservatives that there was inadequate time to deal with the Bill, we managed to finish business early yesterday. We did not need all the time that was allowed under the programme motion. The Conservatives complain a lot about the time available, but when they are offered time they do not seem to use it very well. However, we should not let the debate degenerate. It has been a good debate. I want to focus on the real issues.

On boiler room scams, which were mentioned by the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly), under Government legislation introduced on 1 May 1999 and replaced on 11 December 2003 by the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, it is unlawful to make unsolicited direct marketing calls to any individual who is registered with the telephone preference service. That is
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a whole lot easier than applying for an individual member’s confidentiality order as suggested in the amendment. The Bill provides that a court may relieve a company from the obligation to allow access to its register if the court is satisfied that the access is not sought for a proper purpose. We consider that that strikes a balance between, on the one hand, protecting members from attempts to harass or defraud them, and, on the other hand, the right of the public and members to know who owns a company and to contact them. New clauses 16 and 17 would destroy that balance.

As for amendment No. 384, there was a debate on this issue in Committee, so I shall be brief. Fifteen days is too long a period to allow in all cases where a company is considering a request for access to the register. Let us suppose that a shareholder is trying to contact other members about a resolution that has already been tabled for a general meeting that has been called—particularly an extraordinary general meeting on 14 days’ notice. In such a case, giving the company 15 days to process the request enables the management to frustrate the shareholder’s purposes without even having to justify themselves in court. Moreover, the difficulties of assessing requests for access can be overstated. At the risk of generalising, I suspect that the assessment process will rarely involve detailed research or analysis. A request will either look suspect, or it will not. In our view, five days—remember, that is five working days—will be enough.

5 pm

Amendment No. 758 addresses a rather different topic. It proposes that companies’ registers of members should include details of not just the registered members, notably the legal owners of shares in companies limited by shares, but the holders of any underlying economic interests in the company that may stand behind its registered members. In other words, it would lead to a register not just of legal entitlements, but any related beneficial interests. I must tell my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) that we would not be prepared to accept such a huge change at this stage. It would represent a huge change not only in company law, but to the way in which all sorts of perfectly legitimate businesses are run.

If one thinks about what the amendment would mean in practical terms, it soon becomes clear that however desirable it might be in certain circumstances as a matter of principle, it would have undesirable consequences in other cases. It would also probably fail to achieve many of its objectives, even if it did not simply prove to be unworkable. The first question is how on earth one would enforce a universal requirement to disclose beneficial interests in companies. A company will generally be unaware of the identity, or even existence, of those who hold such interests. Even the registered member may not have all the information if he is only the first link in a chain of intermediaries between the company and those with the underlying economic interest in its shares. If the requirement is unenforceable, it is likely that any criminal elements that might benefit from the limitations of the existing system will also be able to find a way round the proposed new system.

An equal worry is that compliance with the proposed new system would impose hugely increased costs on
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investors, companies and the financial services sector because of the capturing and processing of all the additional information required, without, I regret to say, delivering any benefits commensurate with those costs. If I give a single example of which my hon. Friend might not have thought that is taken from an everyday situation, it might illustrate the complexities involved.

People who live in flats often have a share in the company that owns the flats. They also often have mortgages, and it is common for the lender to be in a position to require the resident of a flat’s share to be transferred to the lender. That gives the lender a beneficial interest in the share. The amendment would require the register to identify the lender’s beneficial interest and to update that information every time the resident switched to a different lender, as often happens, or whenever the lender was taken over by another institution, which also often happens. None of that would serve any especially useful purpose. Okay, we could deal with that problem by way of a further amendment to exclude such situations, but the example shows us the sort of unforeseen consequences that might arise from the amendment.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that there are already powerful statutory mechanisms, at least for public companies, that enable companies to get to the bottom of who might be behind their registered members. These will shortly be supplemented by further measures under the transparency obligations directive. When such mechanisms are used, there is provision for records to be kept of the beneficial owners whose interests have been identified and for those records to be disclosed.

My hon. Friend also spoke to amendment No. 683. Clauses 10 and 11 contain powers that enable the Secretary of State to prescribe in regulations made under the Bill the types of identity information that must be provided in the statements that are to be included in the application for registration, which are the statement of capital and initial shareholding that is required when a company is to be formed as limited by shares and the statement of guarantee that is required when a company is to be formed as limited by guarantee. Given those circumstances, I think that the amendment is unnecessary, because we will achieve the result that my hon. Friend wants, albeit by a different route. We are not especially attracted by the particular wording of the amendment, although I appreciate that that could be altered. However, I hope that my hon. Friend will accept that we achieve the result that he wants through the route already provided for, rather than by using the route that he proposes.

Government amendment No. 222 is a minor amendment that will clarify the Bill. I do not think that it will give rise to any controversy, but I will be happy to answer questions on it if necessary.

Mr. Djanogly: We have had a full debate on this group of amendments, and unfortunately time is now short. The Solicitor-General mentioned the programming. I have just had a quick look and can
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advise him that under the timetable we have so far been unable to discuss even half of the groups of amendments tabled by the Government. He referred to finishing early last night, but failed to mentioned that one and a half hours had been provided for debate on a single group of amendments.

The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) says that we should support openness, transparency and access to registers. I do not disagree with any of that; however, in certain exceptional circumstances there will be a need to restrict access, and that need is not currently catered for.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly) repeated many of the arguments that we heard in Committee. He has acted as a good sounding board and we have learned from many of his comments, especially those in support of investigative journalism.

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) for his constructive remarks. We shall consider what he has said today as the legislation progresses.

To summarise, we believe that there will be circumstances in which companies and individuals should be able to ask for protection. The Secretary of State is mentioned in the new clause, but if the Government took a constructive approach, we could consider providing for a court process. Companies and individuals should be able to receive protection. That is why we shall press new clause 16 to a Division.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 208, Noes 300.
Division No. 313]
[5.6 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clegg, Mr. Nick
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice and Howden)
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Mr. Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias

Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr. Mark
Francois, Mr. Mark
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kramer, Susan
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McCrea, Dr. William
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Milton, Anne
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, David
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Matthew
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Walter, Mr. Robert
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Mark

Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wright, Jeremy
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Ayes:

Andrew Rosindell and
Mr. Crispin Blunt

Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Mr. Jimmy
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Hosie, Stewart

Howarth, rh Mr. George
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Khabra, Mr. Piara S.
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGrady, Mr. Eddie
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Price, Adam
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, James
Rammell, Bill
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Seabeck, Alison
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark

Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Williams, Hywel
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wishart, Pete
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Ian Cawsey and
Jonathan Shaw
Question accordingly negatived.
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Question, That amendments Nos. 209, 254, 210 to 212, 161, 222, 305, 223 and 306 be made, put and agreed to.

Clause 270

Private company not required to have secretary

James Brokenshire (Hornchurch) (Con): I beg to move amendment No. 358, in page 128, line 21, at beginning insert ‘Subject to subsections (3) and (4)’.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:

No. 359, in page 128, line 21, at end insert

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